All in the 6 Nations
Compiled by GERRY THORNLEY
Head-to-head: O'Brien v Robshaw
A product of Tullow and the Leinster/Irish Youths system, O’Brien broke into the Leinster team in ’08/09, and though he didn’t make that season’s Heineken Cup final, he made his Test debut the following November and over the last two and a half seasons has become a key man for province and country. ERC European Player of the Year in Leinster’s 2011 H Cup triumph, and outstanding in knock-out stages last season.
A year older, Robshaw has made a steadier ascent through the English ranks, Conor O’Shea recognising the flanker’s all-action, leader-from-the-front style to make him Harlequins captain three seasons ago. Led the club to the Premiership title last season and having made his Test debut in Argentina in ’09, was made England captain with just one cap at outset of last season.
Both are converted opensides and therefore neither are classical “7s”, though each has made himself effective at the breakdown and in contrast to the Premiership, where referees allow less of a contest, Robshaw competes on the deck more for England. Each tackles with great efficiency and has a high work-rate – Robshaw drawing comparisons with Richard Hill, while O’Brien is the more dynamic carrier.
O’Brien is perhaps more noticeably aggressive and plays on the edge more, though that said, doesn’t get involved in too many scraps. Both are vocal in the huddles but despite being obvious captaincy material Robshaw appears at times almost unobtrusive.
Each, in separate ways, can have a profound impact. O’Brien is more of a go-to, game-breaking carrier, whereas Robshaw has the respect of his team-mates and clearly has a very good relationship with his coach. Of the two, O’Brien is likelier to come up with a game-defining, big play.
Height: 1.88m (6ft 2in)
Weight: 112kg (17st 9lb)
Height: 1.88m (6ft 2in)
Weight: 108kg (17st)
Cutting up rough in pitch battle
Watching Wednesday’s football international on a pitch which in parts resembled a patchwork quilt will have heightened concerns that the surface will cut up even more for Sunday’s game, particularly if there’s a surfeit of re-set scrums. Clearly, the relaying of the pitch last summer, in two stages before and after the Madonna and Lady Gaga concerts, has not worked.
Despite being unused since the Leinster-Clermont match in mid-December, when the pitch was so bad in one patch that Jonnny Sexton couldn’t take on a kick at goal, December and January are not opportune months climatically for grass to grow and it appears that the base is not knitting with the playing surface.
Nor will there be time to re-lay the pitch before the French game in four weeks’ time, as it requires four to six weeks minimum for a pitch to be re-laid and have any chance of setting properly.
Legends line up at Donnybrook
IRELAND LEGENDS: Shane Byrne, David Corkery, Jan Cunningham, Mel Deane, Girvan Dempsey, Len Dinneen, Chris Keane, Mick Galwey, Gary Halpin, Trevor Brennan, Nick Popplewell, James Topping, Liam Toland, John Kelly, Stan McDowell, Anthony Horgan, Simon Mason, Chris Saverimutto, Mick ODriscoll, Stephen Keogh, Eddie Halvey, Frankie Sheahan, Jason Holland, Simon Keogh, Malcolm OKelly, Andy Dunne, Reggie Corrigan, Brian O’Meara.
Shane Byrne’s Ireland compete with Martin Corry’s English “Legends” tomorrow evening in Donnybrook (kick-off 7.30pm) for the Stuart Mangan Memorial Cup.
Recently retired internationals like Girvan Dempsey, along with Irish Times columnist Liam Toland and current Old Belvedere player-coach Andy Dunne, are listed to play with the legends end of it covered by Malcolm O’Kelly, Nick Popplewell and Mick Galwey. Josh Lewsey and Jason Leonard, 2003 World Cup winners, are expected to tog out for England.
The money raised from the match will be donated to the IRFU Charitable Trust, the RFU Injured Players Foundation and RPA Benevolent Fund in England. Tickets are €10 for adults and €5 concessions available at the gate and from ticketmaster.ie.